To receive a presentation updating on the lessons learned and benefits realised since transferring the repairs and maintenance service back to the Authority.
The sub-committee received a presentation which provided an update in relation to the Construction Project, including the financial benefits realised, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and current position and performance.
Members were informed that the financial benefits realised as part of the Construction Project had allowed for re-investment in the housing service. The overall net benefits realised would be around £3.5 million. Investment priorities from these benefits included an increased focus on sustaining rental income, improved empty homes standards and the provision of pest control services to tenants. The benefits realised had also allowed the authority to be more ambitious in the delivery of affordable homes.
The sub-committee was informed of the impact the Covid-19 lockdown had on the housing service. It was explained that at the beginning of the pandemic several services, including non-urgent repairs, planned works and routine lettings, were stood down. Emergency, urgent repairs and out of hours service continued with risk assessments in place. A risk-based approach was taken to standing services back up, with a focus on staff and tenant safety. It was acknowledged that as a result of the pandemic non-urgent repairs would build up and there would be an increased number of empty homes.
As part of a staged recovery, a plan was developed to deal with outstanding repairs, gas safety checks where access was not possible and the increased number of empty homes. Plans were implemented for covid secure workplaces and vulnerable staff were supported via Covid 1-2-1’s. The recovery plans developed and implemented dealt with a backlog of 4,600 jobs that had built up. This was achieved using in-house resources, employing some of the local supply chain and engagement of some agency staff. The outstanding work had all been physically completed and the back-office processing was coming to an end. Risk assessments and safe operating procedures continued to be monitored, as well as sickness levels and self-isolation that could impact on service delivery.
Members were informed of the current performance in relation to responsive repairs and how this compared to pre-covid (2019/20) and during covid (2020/21). The sub-committee was informed of plans to procure a unified system to coordinate all jobs. The Authority deployed a number of systems which were also supported and supplemented by spreadsheets and data outside of these systems. A unified system would bring benefits of improved data sharing, improved customer experience and potentially at a lower cost. A tender exercise for a new system would begin in September 2021, with a view to going live at the beginning of April 2023, following a period of design, building, testing and training of staff.
The sub-committee was made aware of emerging issues around the supply of materials. The increase in the number of people carrying out home improvements during the pandemic, combined with a shortage of HGV drivers, meant that there were delays in the supply and delivery of some materials. Increased costs on many materials had been found during the annual refresh of prices. Some mitigation measures, including bulk buying and alternative suppliers/products, had been put in place. The contact centre was communicating with tenants that there may be a delay in relation to certain jobs. A member of the sub-committee suggested that if supply problems continued, local authorities could work together to share out the resources needed.
The sub-committee was informed of the apprenticeship programme across the housing service. There were 25 apprentices across the service at different stages and the Health and Safety apprentice had been shortlisted through the Association for Public Service Excellence for a national award. All apprentices have a work place manager and a mentor for support. Following questions from members, it was explained that the majority of trade apprentices end up with permanent contracts with the Authority, as long as they meet the required standards and that many staff were willing to put themselves forward to mentor apprentices.
The Chair thanked the officers for the informative presentation.
It was agreed to note the information provided.